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Swiss National Day: fireworks and a call for solidarity and openness

As Switzerland on Sunday celebrated National Day with traditional fireworks displays, Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss called for solidarity and political tolerance and warned against the risk of political isolation within Europe.

This content was published on August 1, 1999 - 13:14

As Switzerland on Sunday celebrated National Day with traditional fireworks displays, Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss called for solidarity and political tolerance and warned against the risk of political isolation within Europe.

Dreifuss called on the Swiss to maintain and consolidate the kind of social justice and solidarity which not only characterised present-day Switzerland but which had also been the hallmark of the country’s political development in the 20th century.

“Now, that we are one of the richest countries in Europe, we must not abandon the kind of social solidarity which Switzerland supported when there was much more poverty than now,” she said.

The president – who is also interior minister -- admonished the Swiss to show solidarity with young families in need, the many elderly who felt lonely, foreigners living in Switzerland, and people living in developing nations.

Dreifuss warned against political intolerance, saying Switzerland’s stability and prosperity were rooted in the acceptance of different cultures, languages and opinions.

“If we abandon the idea of political debate and discussion and replace it with the law of the jungle, then we endanger the very foundation of our multi-cultural and pluralistic society,” she said.

Dreifuss also addressed the theme of Switzerland’s integration into Europe, which has been a hot political issue for years.

Earlier in the year, Switzerland signed a broad package of bilateral agreements with the European Union. The agreements still have to be ratified by the Swiss and all EU parliaments and political analysts in Switzerland expect that certain political groups critical of the EU will force a national referendum on the issue.

Dreifuss came out in support of the bilateral agreements but said Switzerland had lost much of the kind of pro-European commitment once displayed.

She called on the Swiss to go beyond the bilateral accords with the EU and join the European body as a member state.

“There is only once place for us in Europe,” Dreifuss said. “Let’s move to that place with courage, imagination and generosity.”


From staff and wire reports.

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